Opinion

MY TURN | Hard times call for extra efforts

By DAVID L. FOOTE | Executive Director for United Way of Kitsap County

Just when you thought the economy was starting to improve, what happens, we have a government shutdown and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has an October surprise.

The second day of the government shutdown I had a local Congress person call me to ask how the shutdown was affecting our ability to raise funds. I said, “At this point we were fine. But if it lasts as a long as week, I am afraid people are going to begin getting nervous and donations could begin to slow down.” The Congress person then remarked, “I never thought I would be associated with an organization whose poll numbers would be lower than head lice!” A remarkable statement.Then the government web site for the Affordable Care Act blows up and thousands of people find that the plans they like they cannot actually keep; that includes employees at United Way.

There is always a cause and effect that takes place, and the effects of the above two causes appear to be devastating to United Way’s ability to raise funds this year to support the safety net in Kitsap United Way also holds the contract for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). When the government shut down so did the CFC campaign at all government facilities. I recently received word from the CFC director that the campaign is $400,000 or more behind last year’s campaign at the same time. The CFC makes up about 15 to 20 percent of United Way’s total campaign dollars.

With the Affordable Care Act fiasco playing out and many individuals and families finding out that they cannot keep their current plans, they find out that their new policy insurance rates are increasing.

This is true of United Way’s premiums too. People are angry, unsure of the future and apparently that is affecting their willingness to donate to charitable causes.

In 2007 United Way raised $1.86 million dollars and the staff, the Board of Directors and the safety net were ecstatic. We went into 2008 thinking we could hit $2 million. That was not to be as the recession began to slow everything down. Four years of high unemployment and a lagging economy, the campaign has lost over $400,000 in pledges. In 2012 we thought we saw the bottom when the campaign was able to match the 2011 campaign totals. As we looked toward this year’s campaign, we believed that we had an opportunity to begin increasing pledges. However, if you have seen our campaign video this year, you see a man who says, “When you think you have hit rock bottom, you’d be

surprised how much lower rock bottom is!” What a profound statement!

In this moment in time, loyal givers are suffering from overwhelming fears of what tomorrow may bring. Politicians’ favorability are at historical lows. Their inability to do anything but point fingers and call each other despicable names, is it any wonder that people are curled up in a fetal position? Families are doing everything possible to protect themselves from total disaster at the hands of an ineffective, inefficient and over-reaching government that seems bent on tearing this great country apart.

This is unfortunate! The only effective means to help the poor and low income is through charitable giving to local non-profits working diligently and collectively together to provide the necessary safety net for the community. At these sad times is when charitable giving is the most needed. It was hard times like this in 1887 that a Denver woman, two clergy, a priest and a rabbi came together and started what eventually would become United Way today, still the most cost-effective philanthropic organization world wide.

We know that life today is uncertain. As a community we must come together to take care of our own and protect life in Kitsap County. We must work together as if nobody is coming to help. The reality is that now we must continue as if we are on our own! We must find a way to support not only United Way, but the community organizations that constitute the safety net in Kitsap County.

Please, will you help? Donations can be made online at www.unitedwaykitsap.org or you can call United Way at 360-377-8505. It is not too late to conduct a campaign in your business. Give Carl Borg or me a call at our office. We will help you set up a campaign at your business. Every dollar helps.

David L. Foote can be reached by email at dfoote@unitedwaykitsap.org.

 

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